The Role of Community Physicians in Public Health
ources available through the public health system and national organizations such as chemical manufacturers.
A private physician should be cautious about making pronouncements on environmental hazards, either to patients or to the news media. An association between exposure and disease may seem obvious to a physician who has seen several cases, and yet be scientifically incorrect. A physician who publicly accuses a business of wrongdoing, rather than making a report to the health department, may be open to a suit for damages by the business. Public health officials are protected from such suits when they are acting as officers of the state. Their job is made more difficult by the publicity that often arises when individual physicians seek to publicize public health risks. It is better to discuss the problem with the health department personnel before attempting to publicize a risk that may not be significant. If, however, the health department is unresponsive, the physician might want to contact a state or national environmental protection group.